The founder of a travel startup dishes some industry secrets to help you travel more luxuriously — even for business.
By Hilary Stockton (Founder, TravelSort)
I founded TravelSort because I love helping clients travel more luxuriously for less. Travel, even business travel, can still be something you look forward to instead of dread if you can upgrade your flight and hotel experiences. Here’s how to do it while spending less money:
Earn Frequent Flyer Miles Without Flying
If you have to travel, particularly internationally, it helps to not have to spend thousands of dollars to get there. By applying for and using the best travel rewards credit cards, you can earn the frequent flyer miles and points that will enable you to book your travel for the cost of taxes.
Earn Hotel Elite Status Without Staying at Hotels
You can often earn hotel mid-tier elite status by holding the hotel’s co-branded credit card. A couple of examples: the Hyatt Visa will get you Hyatt Platinum status (free Internet, best room for the room category you booked, bonus points). The Hilton HHonors Reserve card gets you Hilton Gold status (free breakfast, free Internet, upgrade on availability).
Book Award Tickets, Not Upgrades
Some of my newer TravelSort Award Booking Service clients ask me about upgrades, but almost always, outright award tickets are a better deal. That’s because you don’t have to deal with expensive co-pays, you can also fly several airline partners, and sometimes even work in a free one-way as part of one award ticket, which you can’t with a paid ticket. That’s why it’s better to earn plenty of frequent flyer miles and points and book award tickets, rather than upgrades.
Bring Along a Companion With a Companion Ticket
One of the best ways to upgrade a trip is to bring along your spouse, partner or friend. Most so-called companion tickets are a bad deal, because they exclude the cheapest fare classes from eligibility. But a few companion ticket offers can be worthwhile, depending on your circumstances. The British Airways companion voucher, which you earn after spending $30,000 on your British Airways Visa in a calendar year, enables you to redeem British Airways Avios for the first flight and bring a companion for no additional Avios, although you do pay taxes and fuel surcharges on both tickets.
Other companion ticket offers worth looking at if you travel mainly domestically and in economy are the Alaska Airlines companion ticket for Alaska Visa Signature cardholders, and the Southwest Companion Pass.
Get Airport Lounge Access
You don’t need to be a frequent flyer to get access to an airline lounge. My favorite means to get access to the better international business and first class lounges is to book a first class or business class award ticket, which grants you access.
While domestic U.S. airport lounges aren’t that impressive, you can get access with the AMEX Platinum card, which, if you have a valid ticket for same-day travel, gives you access to American Airlines Admirals Clubs, Delta Sky Clubs, US Airways Clubs and Airspace Lounges. You also receive two complimentary United Club passes with the United MileagePlus Explorer card, and receive two complimentary airport lounge visits to select Lounge Club lounges with the Ink Bold Small Business card.
Book With a Luxury Travel Agent…
…to score hotel upgrades and complimentary breakfast. The best hotel upgrades and perks at 5-star luxury hotels are reserved for savvy travelers who book with a luxury travel agent affiliated with Virtuoso, Four Seasons Preferred Partner, Ritz-Carlton STARS and the other hotel preferred partner programs. You’ll pay the same rate as if you booked with the hotel, but by booking with a luxury travel agent you’ll receive upgrades and complimentary breakfasts that you wouldn’t have if you booked on your own. These are great perks not only for business travel, but also honeymoons, romantic getaways and family travel.
Enjoy a Complimentary Massage or Spa Treatment
In addition to complimentary breakfast and a potential upgrade, by booking with a luxury travel agent you typically receive a resort-specific special amenity, such as a massage or spa credit (or sometimes lunch or dinner). It’s the perfect way to unwind from a long flight or busy day of meetings.
Do you have any other tips to make business travel more enjoyable?
About the guest blogger: Hilary Stockton (@TravelSort) is the Founder of TravelSort. TravelSort’s Award Booking Service helps travelers book first class and business class flights with miles and points. TravelSort Hotels also books, at no extra cost, your perfect luxury hotel with VIP amenities that are unavailable if you book on your own.